Britney Spears’ last album wasn’t all sung by Britney Spears
The practice of big artists beefing up their vocals on tracks with a veritable chorus of backing singers is not a new one. Almost every major recording artist is guilty of this to varying degrees, and one who’s always been a notable adopter of softening her…distinctive vocal style with a symphony of other voices is Brit Brit.
After the debacle of her last album’s release cleared – that being intense fan dissatisfaction, questions over authenticity of vocals, outrage at poor autotuning et all – one of the remaining questions swirled around backing singer Myah Marie.
Marie has made a name for herself in recent years as a backing vocalist for Britney essentially because she sounds exactly like her. For Britney fans, mentioning Myah Marie’s name is like hitting a giant RAGE button to unleash this.
How Do You Solve a Problem like Myah Marie-ah?
Britney fans feel like Myah Marie is the unpoppable hemmaroid on their angry asses because it is alleged that Myah Marie contributed in near equal measure to Britney Jean as Britney herself.
When Brit Brit wants to go for frapuccinos and buy a toy dog, producers – they say, will yes her out of the door and instead ask Myah Marie to imitate Brit Brit and lay down the track. Will.I.Am himself constantly praised Britney’s working style of ‘in and out’ with no time to faff, but the question is – did that tough time pressure end up with producers having to get creative?
The scandal gained traction when Marie’s own father came forward and claimed Brit-wasn’t-really-Brit on half of her last album ‘Femme Fatale’ . Marie disputed this publicly, and somehow, despite what should have been a Milli Vanilli sized scandal – Britney emerged on the other side without any statement from her label or management. Marie went on to become a featured background vocalist on Britney Jean where she also co-wrote the track Body Ache. Under rug swept, it would seem.
Somethin in the Britney Jean aint Clean.
But it’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away. The original backlash surrounding Britney Jean was partially due to the vast drop in quality the album represented for Spears – but also down to a flurry of questions over why the girl on the CD didn’t always sound quite like the croaky, breathy Britney we know and love.
It wouldn’t be the first time she’s had significant backing support. On Toxic – Cathy Dennis’ backing vocals are often prolific, though the lead is unmistakably Britney. On ‘Britney Jean’ however, fans have had to play guessing games over the suspiciously unfamiliar vocals appearing on certain songs.
Recently more ‘stems’ (parts of the raw track recordings featuring the original vocals) have been leaked by producers and subsequently used to create acoustic versions of some of the BJ songs. Great for fans, who now get to hear a new spin on their favourite tracks; but also potentially deeply revealing for Spears.
One of the versions was a big improvement on the original track and proves just how awful Will.I.Am’s production interference had really been for this project.
However the latest stem has arrived , this time for ‘Passenger‘ . Here, Britney is mixed in with vocal interludes from featured writer and background vocalist Sia Furler.
Britney’s raw vocals on this mix sound loads better than the album’s auto-tuned mess, but her vocals are also suspiciously missing from all of the choruses and bridges in the song.
The posting of the track on Britney fan-site Breatheheavy.com claims from the remix’s producer that ‘Britney only sang the verses and Myah filled in the hook and bridge – most likely due to time constraints, not ability’.
If this is true, what it implies is that a track billed as Britney Spears is not, in-fact, Britney Spears on lead vocals for sizable segments of the song’s run-time. It is not the only track on the album that features this disparity of vocal style (Notably, a 20 second verse in the song Body Ache, written by Myah Marie.) and thereby could be a signal of a wider offence across the record.
The irony of a popstar calling an album her most personal yet and not realizing that some of the leading vocals may not even be her own’s is not lost on me
Sympathy for Lady Britney
This would of course represent a music business scandal – one which will be likely swept under the rug because the world feels bad for Spears. After all we’ve given Britney a ‘Get Out of Life Free’ card because she’s a sweet girl who we, as the public, did wrong for sitting back and eating the popcorn when she veered dangerously close to suicide.
But should we feel so perpetually bad for Brit Brit, and worried about her mental condition, that we let her away with artistic laziness on a scale so grand she is no longer recording entire tracks herself? Is her life so disgracefully busy with walking to Rite-Aids and buying wigs that we should no longer expect her to put in truly the most basic level of time dedication and effort to her recording career?
Everyone loves Britney Spears, to be sure. Her positive attitude and upbeat approach to stardom has ensured the public has lasting goodwill for her. Yet at this stage in her career seeing such utter disengagement from the creative process (however tenuous Spears’ honest link to that process must have been in past) is a slap in the face to consumers and fans, who at least want to know when they shell over $3 for this CD in a bargain bin that they will be at the very least – hearing her.
Update 22/04: After a significant number of emails from Britney Spears fans threatening to cut my throat out and feed me my larynx I’d like to briefly clarify that this article is written from a place of love for Brit and additionally – Britney Spears clearly and unmistakably does sing lead vocals on the album Britney Jean.
This article was designed to highlight a select number of tracks from the album where, it would appear, initial suspicions of a mix-down of Spears’ vocals to being secondary or allegedly non-existent against her backing singer’s at stages would seem to be validated by new leaked studio vocals and the accompanying notes they were posted with. This obviously cannot be confirmed and as such remains purely speculation.